Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 12
TRENEY TWEEDY Nonprofits that Work Together
Creating Our Own Model Poverty to Progress
Citizens of Lynchburg, Virginia, reflect a rich history of workforce and industry that continues to evolve with the changing needs of our society and technology innovation. Developers and business owners are choosing to start new ventures here due to our business-friendly environment. Entrepreneurs are selecting Lynchburg as their base of operations. We have incredible parks, trails and recreation offerings that promote a healthy, fit lifestyle for individuals and families. Our Arts & Cultural District is bringing a new vibe of unique entertainment options which supports our tourism and economic development efforts. As city leaders, we must place continued emphasis on supporting and developing a highly-skilled and educated workforce that meets the needs of local industry. Our city government must work collaboratively with our nonprofit and faith-based organizations, higher-education institutions, and businesses to meet many diverse needs in our city. Lynchburg is a city of about 80,000 in a region of about 250,000. Lynchburg, named for founder John Lynch who ran the ferry, was one of the wealthiest cities in the country prior to the Civil War, a city of opportunity with a church on every hill. Some of the beautiful old buildings from that era are still standing. Now, however, 24% of the population lives below the poverty line, and 29% of those folks are children.
How do we move people out of poverty? How do we shift that mindset for families and individuals? We need the collective community, the nonprofit leaders, volunteers, and educational institutions, to change the thinking. We already have dollars coming into our city, but are they connecting to the issue at hand? A lot of organizations are serving the same people. Individual households and families may be walking through different service buildings with different types of needs at different times. One catalyst for this work was our local health care system. Centra Health realized that they were serving about 1,100 people in the emergency room at the cost of about $17 million, and it still wasn’t meeting the critical needs of that family or individual. Centra looked at how they could spread medical services or opportunities to give people a better relationship with a healthcare provider for ongoing assistance and management. They developed mobile medical clinics and researched the specific place patients are coming from. What are their healthcare needs on that street? That began the conversation of looking at our neighborhoods, streets, families, homes, and tying the census data to it. With all the data and technology available, we know where these households are. Centra’s mobile medical units went to each neighborhood and brought medical care to folks who couldn’t access it. Maybe a transportation system was needed. A
Do we have the wherewithal or the gumption to do something about this? We have a lot of faith leaders, faith communities, and faith houses. We think we have a strong education system. We know we have development and a thriving economic system. But not everyone reaps that opportunity. We looked for compassionate and caring plans to solve our problems, but we didn’t find a canned program that would tell us what to do. We realized that it had to be locally thought out and locally grown. We had to make the conversation solely for Lynchburg and built around Lynchburg. We needed to take advantage of our community spirit and be innovative in how we thought and worked together. The First Step The city manager, previous mayor Joan Foster, and I sat down and decided that we were going to commit to talking about poverty every two weeks during our city council meetings. But we realized that government can’t do it all, and we’d have to partner with nonprofits as we had in programming and events to move our community into its best future. Our future vision continues with cooperation and collaboration.
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